How to Speak Like a Leader

How to convince and persuade by the use of words is something that fascinates me. Regardless of whether the words are written or spoken the power to move other people with your choice of words and formulation of what you wish to say has been evident from time immemorial.

From Aristotle’s ‘Rhetoric’ (also known as ‘the Art of Rhetoric’, ‘On Rhetoric’, or a ‘Treatise on Rhetoric’) to Adolf Hitler to Martin Luther King to Winston Churchill to Barack Obama, the ability of a speaker, through the judicious use of words and some basic guiding principles, to make a change is clear.

Recently, I came across a video on YouTube from Simon Lancaster which sets out 6 rhetorical devices to allow you speak like a leader. Here’s the video

The 6 tools he identifies are

  1. 3 breathless sentences (eg ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’)
  2. 3 repetitive sentences (‘we will fight them on the beaches; we will fight them on..’)
  3. Contrasts (between what you are advocating for and the situation if you do nothing)
  4. the use of metaphor
  5. exaggeration (Donald Trump is a successful exponent)
  6. a rhyme (‘if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit’ used by defence counsel, Johnnie Cochran, in the OJ Simpson trial)

These tools can be used in many situations where you wish to convince or persuade, not just in speeches or wishing to sound or speak like a leader.

And they are tried and tested for thousands of years since Aristotle first gave us the tools of rhetoric.

I touched on some lessons we can learn from Aristotle when it comes to communicating in this video:

Unfair Comments and Reviews-What You Can Learn From the Greats

Check out the reviews of books on Amazon. You will find it worthwhile and you will find some surprises.

For example, a book like “To Kill a Mockingbird”, with 3,664 reviews and an average of 4.7 stars out of a maximum 5. Yet 2% of its reviews are 1 star.

Of the 3,664 reviews 73 people gave it 1 measly star.

Bleak House” by Charles Dickens, a classic book by any definition, and one of the finest books ever written concerning the law, has 3,760 reviews with an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars.

Yet, 4% of the reviewers give it 1 star.

Pick your own favourite book and check the reviews; you will find that at least 2% of reviewers will give 1 star for the best book you have ever read.

Do a search for the greatest book of all time and a Guardian newspaper list gives the number 1 slot to “Don Quixote” by Cervantes. Head over to and you will find that the reviews show that 8% of reviewers give it 1%.

What can you take from this?

When you get a bad review from a client or customer, or critical comments online, or unfair criticism, remember that even the very best, the towering greats in any sphere of activity, are getting 2% of customers to opine that they are crap.

Nobody can serve everybody; just remember this the next time you receive an unfair review or criticism or someone doesn’t like your blog post or YouTube video or service or product.

This is not an excuse for bad service, however, and if the criticism is valid you should be thankful for the person taking the time and giving you the opportunity to improve.

Learning in The Most Surprising Places

It’s amazing where you will learn stuff if you take the time to observe closely. Let me explain.

There’s a man on YouTube with his own YouTube channel.

Even though the views he espouses are, to my mind, pathetic, odious, chauvinistic, right wing, misogynistic, and repulsive I have learned something from him.

Before I share what I have learnt it is noteworthy that he has over 100,000 subscribers, the vast majority of whom are men. He is a mature man. Not only is he mature, he looks mature, too, for he has grey hair and a well-trimmed grey beard and lives on his own.

I have not paid much heed to his back story or what he has said about his living arrangements, but I gather from the titles of his videos that he lives alone and has been through a great deal of relationships and a divorce or two.

He gives advice to men about love, women, relationships, what it means to be a man, why feminism is to be attacked, and spreads a lot of nonsense bordering on misogyny. But his subscribers love him and see him as the father or grandfather many of them never had.

So he gives this purportedly home spun, worldly advice about all types of things to do with life, especially from a man’s perspective. He even has a video on how to smoke a pipe and he has guys asking him questions about smoking pipes, tobacco, and so forth.

In 2019, for young men to be getting advice on YouTube about the benefits of, and techniques for, smoking a pipe is mind boggling.

But what I have learnt is if you are making a YouTube video, and I make many of them, they don’t have to be all action or edited and cut to ensure there is no dead space or movement.

Because this guy, from time to time, just sits there thinking about choosing the right words to speak and puffing on his pipe. Not in any hurry.

He waits until he is ready, until he has the right words, and he doesn’t edit or cut out the natural contemplation or thinking or ‘dead space’ or choosing of the right words to articulate what he wants to say.

His self confidence in this regard is stunning because the most natural thing in the world for most of us is to either fill the space with some words, somehow, or edit it out before uploading the video to YouTube.

And his YouTube subscriber count continues to grow and grow inexorably with his subscribers and viewers giving him the most positive feedback.

So, it’s amazing what you learn when you are watching closely with an open mind, even if you find the individual or his views anti-diluvian and odious.

Envy of Meticulous Oral Communication-Is It Too Late to Learn?

I envy the individual who, without the need for coarse or vulgar or oversimplified language, or the need for vocal stumbling and stuttering and ums and ahs and vocal fry, can fully articulate his views on a topic about which he feels strongly.

For example, if I tried to explain my opinion of how odious and repulsive an individual Donald Trump is I get so tongue tied that I do one of two things:

  1. I refrain from entering upon the question at all, or
  2. I revert to bad language and verbal and vocal inarticulation.

I am tremendously frustrated about this, and it’s not just Donald Trump that causes this-no, anything about which I feel strongly has this effect.

I want to conquer this problem, if not entirely, at least to some extent.

Unfortunately, this problem developed years ago when I was going to school and I have never had the desire to do anything about it.

I do now, though, because I appreciate the value of crystal-clear communication through the use of cogent, well chosen, appropriate, accurate thoughts and words. I hope it’s not too late; I don’t think so if I work at it but the first step in addressing the problem is to recognise it.

The next step is to do something about it, and I suspect, but may stand corrected, that the first step may be to articulate the thoughts and feelings in words. I say ‘may’ because there is a danger that the two disciplines-oral communication and written communication-are completely different and one will not necessarily be improved as a consequence of improving the other.

20 Years’ Experience or 1 Year Repeated 20 Times?

When you are considering getting expert advice from a consultant or other professional, and you are concerned about their claims of relevant experience, ask yourself whether they have one year’s experience repeated multiple times.

Or whether they genuinely got 20 years of varied, wide-ranging experience in the sphere of activity that concerns you.

This is an easy mistake to make.

We all know people who appear to be wise, sagacious, and experienced but when you look more closely you may find someone who has repeatedly carried out a narrow range of tasks in a limited area of activity.

Growing Old

It’s my birthday this week and I have been thinking about growing old, and what it means.

I think I have come to the conclusion that growing old is when you do not want to learn new things.

Growing old is when you do not want to make YouTube videos.

Growing old is when you are not enthused about finishing reading a book because, now, you get to pick a new one again.

Growing old is when you grow more sedentary and put on weight.

Growing old is not losing 3 stone since August.

Growing old is not hustling and grinding as if you were still 23.

It’s probably certain and self evident and an ineluctable fact that I am growing old.

But it doesn’t really feel like it.

How to Succeed Every Time

how to succeed every time

“Succeeding every time” may strike you as an ambitious, unrealistic aim but I can assure you it’s not if you choose how you measure success.

Let me explain.

If you measure success by the outcome or goal you cannot succeed every time.

If you measure success, however, by how well you attend to the process you can succeed every time that you try and do your best.

Because your measure of success will not be measured by the outcome but by your application to the process/procedure.

And this will generally involve three things:

  1. How well you focus your attention to the process
  2. How hard you try
  3. How well you prepare

Let’s face it, you can never determine the outcome because this will depend on what has gone on prior. For example, if you are in the WRC or Labour Court or Court the outcome will be decided by the adjudicator or the Labour Court or the judge.

All you can do is prepare well and let the cards fall where they may.

You will often have heard footballers and rugby players and hurlers talking about “sticking to our processes” after a match. This is because they know if they stick to their process the outcome will take care of itself.

Shane Lowry, Dean Rock, Joe Canning, Johnnie Sexton all face high stakes outcomes when they stand over a putt or a free or a penalty. Dean Rock, for example, had a difficult free a few years ago to win the All Ireland against Mayo.

But Rock was not thinking about the outcome of scoring or failing to score; he was thinking about his routine, his process because this was all he could control. And he slotted it by sticking to his routine, one that he had honed in Ballymun.

Sexton, Joe Canning, Shane Lowry all have tried and trusted and well practiced pre-shot routines. This is because they know they cannot control the outcome, there are too many variables.

They attend to the process and forget about the outcome because all they can control is their approach to the next shot,t he next putt, the next free.

This routine is a little like a child’s comfort blanket, something they can rely on and familiarise themselves with in the comfort of their own training pitch or course.

You can succeed in your next endeavour, therefore, if you measure success by how well you prepare and provided you do your best. And you can do this every time.

Or you can worry and fret about the outcome and the consequences.

It’s your choice.

How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety Every Day

I meet people every day of the week who claim to be, or are, suffering from stress and anxiety. Much, but not all, of the stress arises from their workplace.

I have a philosophy which helps me deal with stress and worry and anxiety and it involves the acceptance of what I believe are 3 fundamental truths; if you accept these truths life will go easier on you.

If you don’t accept them you will, almost certainly, suffer from a great deal of avoidable stress.

The 3 truths, as I see them, are:

  1. Life isn’t fair
  2. The goalposts move
  3. There are no guarantees

If you accept these observations as inalterable principles of life you will not be disappointed. In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised.

But you will reduce your stress and anxiety levels.

I have always try to maintain this general stoic view of life but recently read a book which articulates this philosophy more articulately than I am capable of and explains the scientific and psychological underpinning for this view.

It is a book that I recommend very highly as it is written by a psychiatrist and gives you a framework for reducing stress and managing your mind on a daily basis.

The book is called “The Chimp Paradox” by Prof. Steve Peters.

Motivation and Commitment-the Gulf

commitment v motivation

It’s easy at the beginning of the year to have all sorts of new resolutions and good intentions.

But there is a world of difference between motivation and commitment.

Motivation is easy.

I want to lose weight; I want to run a marathon; I want to become a better husband/father; I want to become a better writer/solicitor; I want Kildare to win the All Ireland football championship; I want Kildare to win the Leinster.

Yes, the motivation part is easy and I can do it from the sitting room couch or the office chair or my car.

Commitment, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish.

Commitment is coming home to a cold house, taking out the ashes of yesterday’s fire, setting a new one, striking the match and watching the Zip firelighter flame up, going out into the cold, wet night to walk/jog/run on badly maintained, dark, rural country roads.

Commitment is getting up at 5.30 am and going into the office at an insensibly early hour to do the work that needs to be done to improve and brutalise an ambition into a noticeable improvement in a worthwhile skill.

Maybe the gulf between motivation and commitment can be exploited and put to good use, though, by embracing it and jumping into the darkness.